ON RANK AND STATUS

***UPDATE – a slightly more polished and beautifully type-set version is part of the SYSTEMICS book.

(made available to read online for free once-in-a-while or generally with a donation based password.)


 

 [written for FLUX magazine, issue 69: ‘ideas that could change the world’]

LIKE A SALT-CRYSTAL, or a colony of ants, every framework has its structure. The structure of our human journey has been the societal network of Rank and Status. We spend our lives mainly chasing illusory promises and dreams within this structure, ultimately moulding ourselves into the Persona / Profile / Stereotype which our parental, cultural and sociological programmes compel us to become. These mechanisms are what game theory utilises. A loophole of human consciousness. We’re predictable. We’re not free at all. The Paradigm of Outside-answers, Outside-blame, runs through most of our Human Endeavours. We can ‘do whatever we want’ (capitalist piss-take freedom) as long as we’re not looking Inside, discover ‘something’ (Truth) Inside of ourselves, lest the ultimate punishment of social segregation is awaiting.

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FUTURE OF POWER AND LOVE

***UPDATE – a slightly more polished edit is part of the SYSTEMICS book.

(made available to read online for free once in a while or generally with a donation based password.)


[ an early paper on new world control and the change of dynamics between the sexes ]

 

INTRODUCTION

  

MOST OF THE time when we talk about the future, or envisage it on hardcopy and paperback, we mainly look at the visible changes, at what happens tangibly in the world around us. will it be closer to the collective dream of a bright, sun kissed UTOPIA or – the prediction of choice – rather be inclined towards a somewhat darker, DYSTOPIAN reality? either way, hardly anyone looks at the invisible changes which are taking place within the individual and the collective psyche of western, urban, post-sex-and-the-city-watching, singlehousehold-celebrating women and men. it is those below-the-surface changes which this paper wants to focus on first before it moves on to discuss the more obvious visible changes thereafter. it is going to have a look at the present stage of the primordial battle between the sexes from the viewpoint of both molecular biology and systemic psychology and will then attempt to predict where it could all go. only after a proclaimed paradigm-shift have we got a reasonable chance to understand those visible, obvious changes which are currently taking place around us. it will have fundamental implications on how we perceive ourselves as human beings in the future, on what it means to us personally and collectively, to be born into this universe and into the sex we’re genetically pre-programmed with – and ultimately what human relations and emotional interactions really mean to us. this paradigm-shift will affect the way how we live our everyday life in western civilisation more than any technological framework which as it presently seems will attempt to control and record our every movement and thought in the future. instead of submitting to a life of slavery and despair we will learn to detach and take for granted that there is no short-cut or quick-fix in this life, no lottery win or dream partner, to achieve an utterly subjective concept of HAPPINESS and BEAUTY. and that after all, personal growth and the unfoldment of our core potential is all we can strive for in a world where everyone is stuck in their very own psychological / karmic prison. it will be clear to each and every one of us that the universe presents itself in all its futility on a day-today basis and we’re continuously challenged to appreciate its beauty throughout the course of our lifetime – despite the incomprehensibly dark feeling that perhaps after all, perhaps within nature itself, in the midst of our dreams about peace, freedom and love, it might as well be all about power and we’re asked to find out where we stand on this and then go ahead and deal with it, be political, take responsibility.

I – THE INVISIBLE CHANGES

 

THE BOTTOM LINE of contemporary SYSTEMIC PSYCHOLOGY is that on the most visible layer of human experience we’re all monkeys with passports and bank-accounts trying to patronise each other into submission. the individual starting or stand point of the females and the males, hereby, differ completely, so that dependent on the genetic code we carry inside, we’ll have to familiarise ourselves with quite a specific set of rules in order to be able to compete in such an unsettling ‘reality’. the major key to successfully climbing the pecking order is not so much violence but sexual attraction. the females would try and seduce the coolest and sexiest male within any given system while the males would try and be seduced by as many sexy and cool females as possible.

looking at the same situation through the eyes of MOLECULAR BIOLOGY, we’d find ourselves trapped in an even deeper and darker scenario. there’s a gene called SRY sitting on the male Y-chromosome whose task it is to make itself as seductive as possible by ‘running away and hiding’. it’s the fastest evolving gene of all, apparently. the opposite gene, named DAX, sitting on the female X-chromosome, attempts to attach itself to this attraction and as soon as it manages, would try to eradicate this genetic advantage. this seems, as we presently see it, to be the main ‘game setup’ of ‘human evolution’ – at least on the ‘monkey plane’. the implications of acknowledging such information as the actual building blocks of our societal structure are obviously numerous and vast.

we become thus brutally aware that we’re all totally alone in this world and pretty much openly at war with everyone else – without actually wanting to be. the imminent question arises, what does friendship, career, relationship and success really mean to us, personally? in the midst of the struggle to be the ‘best’, most of us would never let go of the mysterious subterranean urge to be nice and kind to each other. where does it come from? how can it work? we’re thus continuously being challenged to create structures throughout our lives which are solid and strong while they still allow us to relate to others without jealousy, fear or dependency. we eventually discover that only by being free from any emotional hang-ups can we affiliate with other people respectfully and affectionately and therefore build lasting, secure bonds between us, based firmly on trust.

but until then there’s still a long way to go. at present, most of us interact with each other on a ‘neurotic’ default level, thus perpetuating a CYCLE OF ABUSE. we’ve all been ‘damaged’, down the line, which means that while we were growing up, someone forcefully overstepped our extremely fragile boundaries and ‘broke’ us. we then either react submissive regarding to those injured character traits (we’re repressed) or we begin to stand up against it and find in turn other repressed victims to patronise – we’ve become repressors ourselves (compensating stage of the cycle). either way, we’re not capable of confidently claiming the respect we deserve from other people around us while we’re also not ready to give them their dues in return. we don’t self-assert ourselves successfully enough to receive nice, healthy feedback from nice, healthy people around us. the abusive cycle is essentially creating a prison we feel we’re trapped in forever. it becomes increasingly clear, the older we get (unless we’re losing the plot beforehand :), that the only way to escape it, is through INTERNAL EMOTIONAL HEALING.

II – THE VISIBLE CHANGES

 

IN THE OUTSIDE world, meanwhile, the grip of THE SYSTEM is becoming tighter and tighter as we speak. on the agenda is an infiltration of THE PRIVATE, enforced with a surplus of knowledge and technological superpower. politics will start and end here, by evaluating the threshold on how far we really want THE SYSTEM to penetrate and control our PRIVATE LIVES.

THE RIGHT will thereby argue that we have not to worry about it, because THE SYSTEM, by firmly taking control of what is happening within the realm of its borders, will provide us with the security we’re craving for in a world where we can’t even trust our own neighbours. it’s just so much easier to get on with emotionally deadening family life as long as there are scapegoats next door to blame for the misery of this unsettling and loveless existence.

THE LEFT, on the other side, will claim that we don’t actually need any additional structures, designed to further regulate us private citizens. cctv-monitored cities, passports, bank accounts and national insurance numbers are already enough information we’re prepared to give away, for the system to affect our day-to-day lives. we want to be in charge of our destiny as much as possible ourselves. and if we then also step a bit more onto the GREEN side of the political spectrum, we want it to even pay for the damage been done to us already. we’d feel that therapy has got to be one of the basic needs democracy has to cater for – and it better be a good one, either.

at present, there’s still room for speculation about how far the next rollout of power will carve into the private sphere. will there be compulsory identity cards issued at birth or as soon as we renew our passports? will they be also storing an imprint of our DNA? perhaps it’d be quite handy when finally medicine has come up with proper stem-cell organ reproduction? or would it just serve the evil interests of sleazy insurance corporations, hooked-up 24/7 to the main government computer? shall there be a centralised database, storing each and every move we make, book we buy, person we love, touch, talk to? are we actually being informed as to what extent those plans have been put in place already? at the moment in the UK, journalists’ emails circulating amongst intellectuals are the only reliable source of information the public is getting concerning the actual scope of those about-to-be-signed-off ID-cards.

apparently the current proposal will see cards with an iris-scan, a photograph and our fingerprints stored on and they will be connected to a centralised database, inconspicuously called the NIR, for ‘national identity register’. this database will hold records about every citizen and will have unlimited spaces for whatever further details of our lives to be added, without the need for a further act of parliament. we will be able to swipe them through card-reading terminals, pretty much like the credit-cards we’re already using, where they can be checked against the carrier in realtime. if we buy alcohol or cigarettes or prescription drugs, shopkeepers will be obliged by law to verify our age / eligibility by giving our cards a good swipe. if we apply for a loan, a driving license, a mobile phone, an internet connection, we’ll have to hand over our cards again. on top of this, all data collected about us can be linked to any other private card-issuing company-computer which on its own is allthe-while busy gathering even more vital information about us, like supermarket loyalty-cards already do, for instance.

however and whenever all those far-reaching plans will actually be put in place, the final scenario is pretty obvious. we’re all going to be utterly tracked and screened by THE SYSTEM, and it’ll be only a matter of time, until these unimaginable powers shift enough towards THE RIGHT, for our destiny of living a life in blatant, unmasqueraded slavery to become an obvious reality. how much we’ll by then be able to retain some last sense of freedom will depend largely on how well we’ve been able to take all our invisible, psychological changes on board, in the meantime.

III – THE CONFLICT

 

A LOT OF the issues raised in PART I have already become noticeable in western mega-cities like london and new york. in a world where women have finally become autonomous – economically as well as emotionally – getting laid as a man by abusing your power will increasingly not work anymore. within this new paradigm (if not, in a way, always), women are now calling the shots. if they decide to sleep with a man, they essentially ‘buy into’ this person, take him ‘on board’ of a new breed of establishment (a female one, for a change). he’s then ‘loved’, he’s basically INSIDE THE SYSTEM. he’s got a fair chance to reproduce and therefore, at least genetically, ‘live on’. if the women, on the other hand, reject him, they’re throwing him back ‘outside’, where he’ll stay put and improve his seductive advantage, until eventually some other woman comes along who’d find herself attracted. this new empowerment of women is going to be a massive responsibility and they’ll therefore have to thoroughly learn how to deal with it, preferrably from early childhood. the type of men they choose as their sexual partners exclusively defines which genetic traits are going to make it into the future. and since they’ll also spend time with their men, apart from mating, they’ll also happen to merge with some of their experiences and judgements. they therefore not only genetically, but also politically, are discerning a certain course the future is about to take.

PUSSY IS therefore quite clearly POLITICAL.

in terms of the primordial power struggle between the sexes, the sheets will be onceand-for-all balanced. women have now the blatant power of CHOICE whilst men have in turn the power to BE CHOSEN. this adds up to ZERO, baby. no power games at all in any sexual transactions – only love, the pure language of the heart. sounds quite amazing. the future reality for both of us then, men and women, might therefore be that a few men will have to ‘serve’ several women (whatever that means in regards to the actual ACT of love :), while many men might be alone, though. (in a way, this is something that has always been going on, below the ‘visible surface’ of marriage). on the other hand, a few women might have to share their men also with other women – basically creating harems where women would be in charge. such outcome would blow apart big-time the somewhat childish hollywodian / paulinean idea of husband-and-wife-cells, compulsively churning out new children. but if the concept of family doesn’t work anymore, what will replace it? perhaps the hippies were right and we’ll live in big communes together, raising our kids through shared part-time motherhoods (fatherhoods?).

in terms of the system, perhaps through being online, through ‘realising’ our lives across the world wide web, so to speak, we already live in such communal villages. perhaps due to a newfound netiquette, a climate in which we confidently display our intimate secrets to other open-minded people all over the world, everyone will know everything about everyone else – including the publicly available genetic code. perhaps then, secrets are simply not that important anymore. and perhaps the power derived from knowing and abusing those secrets will thus eventually cease.

but most importantly, the current framework of economic power and cultural brainwash will lose its prominent face completely. within the whole excitement about individual freedom and uninhibited self-expression, it will totally crumble, as media and advertising simply won’t work anymore. who cares about the pleasures obtained from buying that drink, that magazine or that wrinkle-cream when everyone’s acutely aware that this is just not the way how it works, is it? we’ll thoroughly know at that stage what power can makes out of people whose ego is so hopelessly crooked that they’re slithering down into the neurotic abyss. we simply won’t buy into any more propaganda – despite the fact that we’ll most certainly still be force-fed with it, by both cynical, doomed governments and sad, coke-snorting tycoons alike who simply refuse to give up until the bitter end.

IV – THE SOLUTION

 

EVENTUALLY, the discussion about our chances against ‘evil world dominating powers’ will become more and more futile, since any attempt to control other human beings straight away loses its grip as soon as everyone’s detached enough from purely mechanical day-to-day interactions of the ego. in the new cultural climate, it will not be possible anymore, for people to patronise and bully each other. even the threat to nuke them, to anyone with the slightest trace of a brain – even an evolved monkey-brain – becomes utterly ridiculous. let’s therefore hope that whichever political wind we subscribe to in the future, that in bed no-one won’t opt for the ignorants to be made love to and at the table there’ll always be room for discussions, however painful and devastating they might turn out for some of the participants.

for any healthy individual, at the end of the day, the only real goal in life will be to make this world a place which works for everyone. of course, it is clear that there’ll always be an unequal distribution of money and resources, simply due to the ‘random’ nature of the fractal we’re all tied to, forever extracting and expanding through time and space. we have to accept the fact that some of us have just been given more beauty, gifts, money or health and that there’s obviously no one to blame for this. we’re only CODE / MIND / CONSCIOUSNESS, floating freely through an UNFATHOMABLE TIME-SPACE UNIVERSE. perhaps there is something like a PROGRAMME at work, governing all, who is there to say? in a society where life is  about individual and collective growth, feelings like envy and jealousy lose simply their meaning. whether some database tracks and records us or not, we’re able to build-up genuine networks with other individuals, perhaps also tracked and recorded, based on trust, respect and attraction. it is only unadulterated and unconditional bonds that connect us, down to our spiritual core. we’re all stars now. but in the tragic frailty of life, we’re all failures at the same time, as our time keeps slowly expiring.

perhaps in the far future, we might come up with ways to extend our lives on an as yet unimaginable scale. on the other hand, dying seems to be inherent to anything living. our sun will eventually die. but then again, perhaps there is an AFTERLIFE? or perhaps, by the time our sun dies, we’ll have found a way to spread the WORD, LIFE, the CODE into yet another galaxy or dimension and thus live-on ‘forever’, wherever ‘infinity’ leads us. whether we’ll land in a neighbouring or a parallel REALM remains to be seen, though. we might not be able to use our swipe-cards to get through the alien customs but we’d probably still want to make love until the morning dawns again.

London, July 2006
© 2006, all rights reserved

THE MODEL

***EDIT – part of the LOVE ETC book.

(made available to read online for free once in a while or generally with a donation based password.)

 


 

[a short story]

I

Swaying down the catwalk like she’s done so many times before, the photographers’ flashes this time spit up on her like venomously striking sniper-fire. Zoe’s presenting the fifth outfit of McQueen’s Spring / Summer collection – when it suddenly dawns on her – she isn’t at all ready to die. Her long, staggering legs bend and everything’s slowly fading away as she stumbles off the planks she’s thus walked herself to stardom on. A unified gasp ruffles the audience. The soundtrack of the show, a bizarrely confident punk track, cuts-off abruptly as if backstage somebody’s head’s just been smashed up against the mixing desk’s volume control. People are panicking all over the place. Another storm of flashes strikes even the remotest corner of the elegant Parisian Art-Deco venue. Behind Zoe’s closed eyelids, everything’s starting to slide away. “Where’s the fucking ambulance?”, she can vaguely hear someone screaming. The voice is distorted and not much different from the all-encumbering noise in her head which increasingly seems to be coming from millions of miles away. From some other dimensions? She’s grasping some last, fading fragments of tremor. Until there’s only just silence – absolute.
Has this been it?

Lucy from the agency’s sitting next to her in the neat and bright room of the private clinic they’ve booked her into. She’s completely withdrawn into an inane game on her latest phone-toy.
“Hey – oh wow … Zoe – you’re back,” she suddenly bursts out, clasping her hands in front of her chest like a child. “How d’you feel?”
She bends down to kiss both her cheeks as if they’d just met at some party. Such a sweet girl, Lucy. Kind-of totally innocent which is pretty hard to find these days, especially not in bloody fashion.
While Zoe’s slowly getting accustomed to her re-gained consciousness she notices that the sun is shining straight on her face. She can also hear birds twittering and their soothing tunes gracefully cocoon the grinding sounds of a remote city – was it Paris? Next to the window, a calendar’s showing some beach scene. Mediterranean. Lots of yachts – Nice, Cannes, Monaco? It is Sunday, it says, the 21st of July. A hot, French mid-summer afternoon.
Lucy tells her that instead of coming to see how she’s coping, David, her current ‘boyfriend’, pretends to be simply too busy to fly all the way across the Atlantic. Presumably he’s shagging yet another talentless wannabe actress, in yet another generic Manhattan five-star hotel, instead. She can also already see the guys back at the agency, looking all deeply concerned and-what-not but in fact only adding-up any financial losses her accident might’ve caused to their annual company turnover. Most of her friends are unfortunately just as shallow. And as to her mother – she wouldn’t even dream of contacting her, a deranging ex-crack-whore rotting away in a West London old people’s home. She’s utterly alone, basically. And she’s just had a near-death-experience – a ‘wake-up-call’ as her counsellors would soberly put it. And yet – weirdly – she cannot seem to find the emotional tune to drown herself in any misery or some kind of self-pity. Instead, she just looks at sugar-sweet Lucy and smiles. At this very moment, she’s deciding to change her life completely. She doesn’t know what she’s going to do or how she’s going to do it. But things have definitely got to be different. Who is she anyway? She basically hasn’t got a clue. A brand-new and much more genuine Zoe is only just dying to be born.
“To be honest, Lucy, I don’t think I’ve ever felt better in my entire life”, she whispers. Her voice is still weak. She‘s breathing-in fresh air and it explodes in her lungs sharply. This is how it must’ve felt at the time of her original birth. Another couple of deep breaths and she’s beginning to feel quite inebriated. Everything’s spinning, her face flushes. Goose-bumps are crawling all-over her body. It is as if she’s just downed several salty shots of tequila in one go before hitting the stage life has chosen for her to be on from now on. With confidence brimming and a huge smile on her face, she’s scattering her fullyblown kit across a gathering audience of befuddled fools. Until she just stands there, naked and sacred. And up for virtually     “To be honest, Lucy, I don’t think I’ve ever felt better in my entire life”, she whispers. Her voice is still weak. She‘s breathing-in fresh air and it explodes in her lungs sharply. This is how it must’ve felt at the time of her original birth. Another couple of deep breaths and she’s beginning to feel quite inebriated. Everything’s spinning, her face flushes. Goose-bumps are crawling all-over her body. It is as if she’s just downed several salty shots of tequila in one go before hitting the stage life has chosen for her to be on from now on. With confidence brimming and a huge smile on her face, she’s scattering her fullyblown kit across a gathering audience of befuddled fools. Until she just stands there, naked and sacred. And up for virtually anything.

From her Upper West-side apartment she’s got a lovely view over Central Park, which is always nice, for sure, but freaking awesome in summer. She bought the place about two years ago and it was certainly one of the most life-changing decisions she’s ever made – somewhere along the lines of her abortion three years earlier. Although she really liked the guy back then and in a way getting pregnant by him had felt somehow right, she decided against becoming a mother at those particularly early stages of her career. And puff – just like that – the very same career almost overnight shot through the roof, cementing her face and her body on countless fashion and lifestyle titles all over the world. Funny how things go sometimes.

“Thanks Rachel – yeah it’s definitely been a wake-up call. I just can’t carry on like this anymore,” she says on the phone. She’s talking to her best friend, a similarly successful model – although she’s got to star in an urban-cool glam-rock pop-promo not long ago and is now keen to get into movies. Zoe lies on the couch and rants into her flip-top.
“I haven’t done anything else in my life apart from modelling and I know it sounds pretty pretentious, because, y’know, we’re all stars and whatever”, she contemplates. Rachel feels silent on the other side. “But at the end of the day we’re still always hanging out with the same bunch of people, y’know – ‘our own kind’ – and the rest of the world feels like a threat in a way – d’you know what I mean?”, she asks Rachel although she herself doesn’t really know what she’s actually talking about. Well. She’s gonna take a bath, she decides.
“Anyway, good to be back and let’s catch up soon. You going to Giorgio’s party tonight? … well perhaps see you there then. Byyye.” She throws her phone on the loo seat and slides-off her panties. Steaming-hot water pours into the warm and soft polymer-tub matching the luminescent-green toilet next to it. She found them both in her favourite designer-shop downtown, like the eggshaped, musk-flavoured candles neatly spread-out across the room. She ignites some and turns-off the main light to have one of her favourable looks at herself in the mirror-wall facing the tub. Sighing and satisfied with what she sees, she finally slides into the water.
This is it, her life so far. Looking at it from the outside it isn’t actually too bad. Only that ‘something’ deep inside her – something essential – is missing ‘something’ in it. After puffing away half of the joint a Moroccan model-friend left her the other day – “is really niiice”, he promised – it gradually dawns on her that she’s got to get out of here in order to find out what this ‘something’ may be.

“To say I’m shocked would be a complete understatement, Zoe”, Françoise throws back at her, looking down on Broadway from the striking panorama-view of her office.
“It’s only six months, Françoise, not such a big deal. It’s not that I’m telling you I’m quitting, is it?” Zoe takes a deep breath. “Why don’t you look at it as a big holiday, I haven’t had one for ages anyway”, she further reasons. A pin-board behind the desk is plastered with pictures of ethereal, pretty outlandish models.
“I need a holiday too, believe me”, Françoise admits after a while.
“You should get one, Françoise. It really doesn’t help anyone if you’re not happy.”
Françoise doesn’t look at her but has spotted a strangely peculiar ant crawling along 127 floors below – and it might as well be one of her model-scouts she’s stubbornly convinced for a while.
“In a way, your whole life is like an endless stream of addictions”, she finally says, almost to herself, “and at some point your career, your hobbies, your friends and your love-life simply become yet another series of bad habits – increasingly difficult to break the older you get, really.”
The humming chords of another day passing in New York City are all they hear for a while. Never before has Zoe seen her agent this serious and the whole confrontation has turned out quite touching – if that’s the right expression.
But then Françoise-the-business-woman returns and their conversation changes tune once again. “So I’ll take your new bookings from the 1st of January, is that correct?”, she wants to know.
Zoe laughs, “you’ll get over it, Françoise. There are lots of other hot models under your roof to keep you perfectly happy.” She steps over and kisses her cheek. “I’ll see you in a couple of months again. I won’t take any mobile with me and I’ve decided not to do any emails either.”
Zoe’s spreading her arms and bending her knees in an ironical stage-performance. “This will be it then …”
“So where’s this place you’re going again?”, Françoise asks her, mainly to keep her lurking melancholy under control.
“Iceland. A friend’s already been there a couple of times and she says it’s absolutely amazing.”
Françoise glances down on Broadway again. She catches another ant-scout and thus once again successfully represses any too uncomfortable emotions. “Sounds great”, she mutters, in her mind somewhere else already.
“Take it easy, Françoise. I’m already looking forward to seeing you again”, Zoe says in her sweetest voice. “Byyye.”
She turns around and leaves the office, passing by a ridiculously busy agency floor – to reach the postmodern, slick hyper-speed-lifts bringing her back down to baseline.

“Yeah baby, exactly, for six months … that’s right.” She’s back at her place and on the phone to her ‘boyfriend’ David. For a few minutes he’s totally with her, something he hasn’t been since they’d met at last year’s Golden Globe after-show party and which also then only lasted right until they’d fucked-out their brains back in her room, coked-up and turned-on like two lonesome lab-rabbits. Now he’s again behaving like this boy whose mother’s just told him to stay put while she’s gonna pop down to do some extensive Christmas shopping. Her announcement’s obviously triggered his ‘caring instinct’ again – let’s call it ‘love’ to keep things simple. Well well, my poor David – perhaps you do want to progress into some deeper and more serious, perhaps even lasting relationships, after all?
“You won’t miss me anyway”, she jokes while packing her suitcase.         “Yes, of course I will”, she replies to his almost fatherly advice to look after herself. Toothbrush? Tweezers? She roams through her bathroom cabinet. His tone of voice’s gone back to normal again. Like so often, he’s probably with a girl or two and even as they’re talking about her leaving for quite a long period of time, one of them will have already pulled down his pants in giggling anticipation of his admittedly accomplished lovemaking skills. She’s suddenly got to laugh at this thought. He just loooves sex and never really gets tired of telling her – good old David.
“Well David, I’ll see you again in winter. Have a good time until then – I know you will. Thanks. Byyye.” She closes the phone and chucks it onto the bed next to the suitcase. Has she got everything? It really doesn’t matter since most of the time she’ll be naked anyway. “The only thing you need at the retreat is your Self”, it promises in the brochure. Somehow this makes sense, to turn up like a baby, fragile and exposed, if any rebirth is supposed to happen.


II

The mud is completely covering her body like a second skin. She can feel the cooling, caustic consistency of the loam-pack even inside her ears. Alone in the darkened room, which looks a bit like the tomb for an intergalactic war hero, she notices that this earth doesn’t smell too bad at all. Slowly drying, its rejuvenating juices are dissipating into her slender and tanned body. The whole thing is indeed beyond anything she could’ve ever imagined and – well, definitely absolutely amazing.

Later on in the evening, she has a swim in one of the hot sulphur-pools outside. Through the thick, crawling steam she can glimpse the vast ice-crusted landscape surrounding the spa. For a good while, she cheerfully paddles with her arms, hanging in the water, before leaning back to let herself float on the surface. The beauty of the stars, as they glitteringly flicker through heavy layers of steam, overwhelms her on the second day. She’s starting to cry – an already poriferous valve has suddenly burst open. Between alternating waves of pain and bliss she lets go, at once, of all the stress and tensions accumulated from years of hiding. The years of lying. And it just wouldn’t stop for another three days.

“Do you like it here?”, the short, chubby guy asks from the opposite bench of the sauna. At this time they’re the only guests there. His white, fluffy towel has been carefully draped around his waist so that the flabby chunk of his belly can present itself to the dry heat of the room with a sweaty but polite bow. She’s noticed this guy for a couple of days now. Despite her flawless body and her pretty relaxed but all-the-more in-your-face way to present it, she hasn’t seen any signs of the submissive demeanour most other men would usually display in her presence. She’s getting up from her comfy position for her cute, pear-shaped tits to poke straight into his eye. Not the slightest reaction and he doesn’t seem to be gay either – how funny.
“For me it’s the first time I’m here and to be honest with you I’m totally blown away by the whole thing”, she finally answers, introducing herself on the way – “I’m Zoe.” She stretches her slender neck every-so-subtly.
“I’m Paul, it’s very nice to meet you”, he says, “for me it’s also the first time and I’m also absolutely loving it.”
“It’s beyond any dream.” She gives him one of her sweetest smiles. He seems to be a really nice guy.
“I’m a … molecular biologist”, he then says, a bit awkward, somewhat out of context, almost as if he was a bit ashamed of it, but then again, not really.
“Oh wow, that sounds really fascinating.” For some reason she feels very relaxed with this guy and somehow trusts him completely – although she couldn’t exactly pin-down why. “I’m working in fashion, basically selling clothes with my looks”, she tells him, leaving her job description as low-key as she’s spontaneously being capable of.
“I see”, he nods, understanding.
Still smiling, she goes back into her favourite lying position. It feels so good to meet this guy.
A friendly staff member pops in with a wooden water-bucket, obligatory at half-hourly intervals. “Aaah, very good”, Paul welcomes her and then gets up while the woman leaves again quietly. He draws water out of the bucket, adds a few drops of the mandarin oil he’s been hiding somewhere deep in his towel. Then pours it all in one go on the gleaming-hot stones of the heater. Outbursts of steam keep flooding the room and they’re both groaning in unison – eaten alive by zillions of rejoicingly gnawing water-particle piranhas.

Breakfast usually takes place between seven and eight in the morning. If you don’t turn up on time you’ll not get anything to eat for another five hours. After almost two weeks, she still can’t get used to the tight regime of the sanctuary. She’d gone to bed late last night and couldn’t possibly drag herself out of it this morning. Now she’s bloody starving and unfortunately has got to hold it for another three hours. To manage, she opts for the steam-room. There are a few people there. Paul is one of them, although almost entirely hidden behind the thick fumes.
His day’s so far been quite good. He enjoyed a green loam face-pack in the morning, followed by some therapeutic deep-organ massage which had been really painful to start with but after a while felt almost outrageously relieving. This was then followed by a refreshing swim in the eucalyptus-chambers around the main pool area. He now feels fairly ‘content’, if that’s the right expression. ‘Happy’, if that wouldn’t sound too silly.
After everyone else has left, him and Zoe move closer together. She stretches back into her favourite position, naked and dignified. A goddess. Endless layers of fog sweep through the room like vacant, translucent visions.
“Did you know that we’re continuously photocopying ourselves?”, Paul starts. His voice is calm and consistent, she finds it extremely comforting to listen-in to. “This photocopying seems to be Life as we know it.”
She doesn’t feel the need to answer or to interrupt. In fact, she can’t wait to hear more.
He continues, “every single minute we photocopy several kilometres of our DNA. That’s like … – … it’s in a way like the heartbeat of the universe, isn’t it?”
With her eyes closed she’s riding the waves of thought he’s just imparted on her. It’s quite an odd journey but she can’t remember a time when she’s felt that much at ease with herself.
According to his experience, it’s definitely not an easy task to take the truth about life on board – about us, the futile, transitory machinery that we are. Awareness needs time to settle. This gives him a chance to look at her for the first time properly. Through the heavy, hot fumes he examines her excruciatingly flawless grace. What a sheer perfect code. It is in fact of such mind-boggling magnificence that he can’t remember of ever having seen anything like it, not even under the microscope and most definitely not this alive and sprawled-out right in front of him. Her magnetism is so overpowering that he has to literally force himself to look away. Endorphins rush through his brain in a frenzy, underpinning his general contentment with a broad grin on his face. The hormones of love. Yes indeed, he does feel profoundly ‘complete’ at this particular freeze-frame of eternity. What an amazing experience. He breathes in and out deeply, indulging in the feast of comfort swelling up in his chest.
Slowly he carries on, letting it pour out from even deeper, this time. “Any sloppy copying alters the initial code and thereby results in mutations. Some of them are advancing us, making us ‘better’. But most of the time they’d simply just drag us down. Ageing itself is ultimately just a mutation.”
Heavy wafts of steam continue to float through the room quietly. Again, he’s letting the data settle before he eventually concludes, “hence life on earth is merely a six-million-years-long history of photocopying primordial soup-recipe to eventually look like you and me here, sweating away in an Icelandic steam-chamber.” Pause. “And while I’m talking to you and you’re listening to me we’re actually photocopying ourselves into the future.” Another pause, this time it is final.
She sighs. So this is what existence comes down to then. Here it is, the truth she’s always felt somehow. The steam above her head is now so dense that it almost seems to stand there, without any signs of movement, without any sense of weight, just waiting for something to happen, some code to be generated, some time to be passed, some light to be shed into yet more corners of darkness. Pinned down to her bench. her mind is drifting-off deeper into this world – the Real World, the Universe and her deserved place within. This is for sure the most amazing trip she’s ever had. Both her body and mind have never been more pristine and clear than at this very moment, in this timeless parallel-universe of an Icelandic steam-room where she’s having the time of her life with some overweight guy who just happens to be incredibly sweet. And she’s starting to feel like a crystal.

After another day of massages, steam-baths and saunas she wakes up from a dream where her and Paul have been touching each other in one of the sulphur-pools outside. The dream really irritates her, firstly because she hasn’t had any sexual ideas for ages. And secondly, because she doesn’t even remotely fancy Paul. Of course he’s really cool – an absolutely amazing guy and everything – but making love to him, that’s a different story entirely. Perhaps it is sad, but looks to her are really important and in this department Paul’s definitely not her kind of guy – sorry about that.
Unable to go back to sleep, she heads towards her kitchen. She flicks-on the kettle and prepares herself an organic nettle-tea. In the mini-fridge, there’s still a little bit left of the flame-grilled soya steak from the day before, garnished with still surprisingly succulent leaves of baby-spinach. She decides to devour it cold. The steady chewing calms down her itching nerves nicely. “I know, the realisation that our life is futile and pointless is a very lengthy and painful process”, she remembers Paul’s words and takes a sip off the tea. It is nice and further contributes to calming her down. Can she ever go back to her old life again? Could she basically ever do anything else than model, snort coke and hang out with people who’re only pretending to be her friends all the time? And what’s all this about Paul? It is true, she really likes him and everything and there’s something really strong goingon between them. But what does this ultimately mean?

It feels odd the next time they meet. There’s also a pang of loneliness in the air as she knows that he’ll leave in just a few days.
“I can’t sleep at the moment”, she starts today’s conversation in an attempt to distract from the extremely uncomfortable situation. He moves closer towards her on the sauna bench that day and rubs her back comfortingly. It must be the first time that they’ve actual physical contact. Although he remains as distant as ever, the gesture alone is soothing her.
“I know how it feels,” Paul says with a hoarse and low voice. Father to girl. It all feels so bloody comforting. Zoe resists the urge to drop her head on his lap, allowing herself to turn into the melting receiver of his delicate strokes through her hair. What the hell is happening? Could this be love then, after all? Is this how it feels, this ‘love’?
No, it’s simply impossible – it can not possibly be. And yet, there’s this almost painful urge to be close to him and … whatever, today she simply can’t deal with it.
“I’m really sorry, Paul”, she finally says and gently pats on his shoulder. She gets up, grabs her towel and heads towards the exit. Before she’s leaving, she turns round, with a shrug and a grimace indicating something like ‘it’s-just-too-hot-in-here-today’. And it skilfully allows her to escape without leaving any traces of tension or sadness behind. At least not this time.

They’re in the sulphur-pool outside. It’s around 11.30 pm and most guests have gone to bed already. This evening, there’s an icy breeze pulling the steam swiftly across the water. It’s Paul’s final night. A grey cloud of depression is hanging above their heads, waiting to come down as soon as they’d lose their frail composure. It’ll be extremely difficult to say goodbye. Of course they’ll try to stay in touch but it’s in reality highly unlikely. He lives somewhere in countryside England, with a wife and three kids. And she’s going to be back in New York again, with an after her absence most likely to be even busier timetable than ever before. The prospects of a friendship like this are not particularly rosy, are they? Perhaps an email every now and again. But she’s just not the kind of person to bother about typing what she feels into some machine connected to  another machine. And she knows all-too-well that he wouldn’t be the kind of person either. Mutual holidays here in Iceland every two years? How pathetic.
“More or less this is it”, she thinks. “More or less this is it”, she says. Finally, after four months of innumerable loam-packs, steam-baths and massages, her thoughts are entirely in tune with her actions. Everything comes out pure and unadulterated.
“I’m not sure how to deal with this either”, he answers after a while. His voice is coarse and trembling.
The stars have now become completely hidden from them. They’re both entrenched in an infinite capsule of white fog. Here and now. The heartbeat of the universe. She’s resting her head on his shoulder and doesn’t say a thing. He also remains silent – staring blankly into the lucid, transiting steam as it keeps changing its shape, size and position.
Fractals. Fractals passing through time and space.
Both their lives are nothing more than this. But then again. They’re also nothing less.

london, june 2005 – march 2009
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